I love maps, or rather, I love antique maps. Their tea-coloured papers, brittle as moth wings, hint at an exotic world that once was but no longer exists: a treasure map of a past time, promising adventure and romance, like a chapter straight out of Lord of the Rings. The scripted names, the shadows of towering mountain ranges; meandering rivers cutting across the page like hairline cracks in ancient porcelain, flowing to vast oceans filled with swirling line-work sea monsters and Dutch ships. They promise a grand quest filled with danger and delight that you can only venture to in your mind. You, the armchair explorer, Indiana Jones of the sofa. They have an artistic appeal that modern day maps simply do not have. You're left wondering what the early explorers experienced as they set off for these distant uncharted lands. We all have uncharted lands within, parts of ourselves that we have never explored because we've focused on the known. One day, my love of old maps segued into an abstract painting without me realizing it. I'd waited years for a map image to thrust itself upon me and suddenly there it was.
An ink wash, diluted like watercolour, with small clumpy bits of acrylic mixed in created an image that looked vaguely like a topographical map. It sat in my files for about a year. Every time I looked at it I saw a map but wasn't sure what I could do with it. But then one day in an effort to keep my creative brain limbered up between paintings, I was doing one of my “crop circle” drawings. I scanned it into Photoshop and looked for something to put beneath it. I wasn't really looking to make a painting of it, just to get a sense of how it would look over something. I pulled out the ink wash and suddenly I saw it.
All I need is one tiny element to click and I'm off to the races. I'm engaged. I can make connections where there were none before. It's like solving a puzzle. One thing offers a clue, like a flashlight beam on a tiny area in the darkness. From there it can branch outward, feeling it's way. Little clues and sometimes wrong turns in the dark, and it begins to build upon itself until an entire picture can be seen and brought into focus. This is how A Map of Alternate Reality came about. Completely unrelated images and textures layered upon each other. The geometric pencil drawings when layered over top of the ink wash gave lines and shapes similar to grids and ornamentation. A nod to my beloved antique maps while not depicting any real place, or even truly a map ... hence, a map of alternate reality. A place where curious things can be found but not a place to physically trek through. A place to get lost in the spirals and lines that lead nowhere but back to the beginning. A mindfulness map.
These types of images can actually be the most exciting to create, because you don't know where they're going. There's no “map”, bad pun intended, at the outset to follow. No idea followed logically by thumbnail compositions and pencil drawings. No destination to move towards. There are just odds and ends to be twisted and turned and flipped and fit together like a Chinese puzzle, in a quest for beautiful cohesion. Just like the early explorers, you set sail, and pray that after perilous months at sea, a magnificent new land will be found on the horizon when the mist parts.
The six resin-coated panels of “A Map of Alternate Reality” will be available for purchase in early Spring, 2019.